By Claire Shonk, Ohio State Athletics Communications
Most college students heading into their sophomore year spend their summer resting, going to the beach or maybe even catching up on a few course credits.
Izzy Rodriguez spent the summer of 2018 a little differently than most students when she was added to the U.S. U-20 national team roster for the U-20 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Rodriguez, a defender for the Ohio State women’s soccer team, was born in Canton, Michigan and has played soccer most of her life. She participated in lots of sports in her youth and began soccer after a family friend asked her parents to let her join the team he was coaching. Her love for soccer grew from there, and she began playing for the Michigan Hawks a few years later.
Rodriguez credits the Hawks for the intense training environment she was able to practice in, and in 2014 her hard work paid off when she received her first youth national call up at the start of the 2014-16 U-17 women’s national team cycle. The call up came as a surprise.
“I was like ‘Wow, I made a team,’ and I was just happy with that,” Rodriguez said. “I was like ‘Okay, I could be satisfied with where I am right now.’”
During her time with the U-17 team, she got the opportunity to represent Team USA in the 2016 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship in Grenada. She helped the U.S. gain the regional title and the berth to the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Jordan.
The following year Rodriguez made her way to Ohio State for her freshman year, starting all 21 matches at left back. Her first season ended with being named third team All-Big Ten and an OSU Scholar-Athlete. Coming off a successful first year at college, Rodriguez was one of 30 players called to the 2017 U.S. U-19 national team camp in Sunrise, Florida, where she was then called up to the U-20 team.
“I was just really excited to be back in it,” Rodriguez said. “I missed going to camps. It was just step by step from there of what camp I could make, if I could make the next one, and just keep my head down working hard to get to it.”
She played for Team USA at the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s U-20 Championship in Trinidad and Tobago and the 2018 Tournoi Maurice Revello Sud Ladies Cup. Following her appearances with the team, she found out on July 17 that her summer plans were about to change. She was one of 16 collegiate players to make the roster for the U-20 women’s national team for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.
“It was actually at our last camp they made the decisions there and we had meetings,” Rodriguez said. “It was kind of intimidating walking in with all the coaches, but it was the greatest feeling and the biggest relief because all our hard work finally paid off.”
In early August 2018, she headed off with Team USA to France where the Women’s World Cup was being held.
“We got there I think two weeks earlier than we were supposed to just to get some training in,” Rodriguez said. “We had taken two or three trips beforehand just to kind of get used to the atmosphere. Everything was in tip-top shape. The facilities, the people working, everything was so professional.”
Team USA went 1-1-1 in three games and placed third out of four behind Spain and Japan. It was the first time in competition history that the U.S. failed to progress from group play, and the U.S. ultimately placed ninth overall. Despite not getting the outcome they wanted, Rodriguez still has fond memories of the experience.
“I think my favorite memory would have to be our last game against Spain,” Rodriguez said. “We had prepared a lot for it, obviously, and we ended up not getting the result we needed to. Just having the feelings of everybody there and how much we went through over the past years and the emotions through it all even though it wasn’t the result we had wanted. Those are people I’m going to be friends with my entire life.”
With her World Cup experience cut short, Rodriguez made her way back to the U.S. for the start of her sophomore season with Ohio State. Not expecting to be back so soon, she flew directly to North Carolina to meet up with the team where they were playing Duke and UNC.
“Normally when you get back from camp, you’re not supposed to play for a couple days to get some rest, but we didn’t have any subs at that time,” Rodriguez said. “So, I kind of got back Thursday and landed in Charlotte or Raleigh, wherever we were, and played the next day in a game.”
Rodriguez said it was a lot to deal with at once, but that it was almost easier for her to jump straight into the season. The jump start seemed to do her well, and she was named United Soccer Coaches First Team All-North Region, first team All-Big Ten and Academic All-Big Ten, as well as being a Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for goals in three-consecutive matches, which were her first collegiate goals.
Looking back now at the differences between the college and national levels, Rodriguez credits the U.S. national team for preparing her to play at Ohio State and vice versa.
“I think playing at the national team level helped me here because it helps me with my leadership skills,” Rodriguez said. “Coming here and being able to help my teammates learn from it too and give some of my input has been great. But also, they [Ohio State teammates] teach me how to be a better leader in how I can help with their skills and their play.”
With her 20th birthday just past, Rodriguez is no longer eligible for the U-20 national team. The next national team she could compete with is the U-23 team, which she hopes to get the call for. Overall, she’s aiming for the senior team someday, though still focused on her time at Ohio State as a collegiate athlete and finance major. Her desire to represent the U.S. on a national stage again, however, is strong and not going away anytime soon.
“Every time the national anthem plays for me is just one of the biggest cues. Just listening to that and wearing a U.S. jersey is one of the biggest honors out there,” Rodriguez said. “I kind of forget how lucky I am to have done that, and it’s been a while since I’ve been in on one of those games so that itching feeling to get back out there is pretty great.”